ARLINGTON — Three plays. Three touchdowns. One state title.
Newton scored on three straight plays in the second half of Thursday’s Class 3A, Division II title game at AT&T Stadium to beat Gunter 40-16 to win its fourth state title, snapping the Tigers’ 31-game winning streak in the process.
“We knew we could throw on them in the second half,” Newton coach W.T. Johnston said. “We’ve got some great players and we have great wide receivers. They can’t overplay one or the other, and they are tall and fast. Coach Greg Neece is a terrific play caller, and he lit it up when they started playing our wide receivers man-to-man. That’s when we dialed it up.”
The Eagles amassed 219 yards over the three-play span. Quarterback Josh Foster threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Noah Williams on the final play of the third quarter. He then found LaKendrick Adams on a 75-yard deep ball before Tamauzia Brown sprinted for a 75-yard score with 7:24 left in the game.
Newton out-gained Gunter 540 yard to 180 and scored 40 points on a defense that gave up just over seven points a game and had six shutouts throughout the season.
Foster finished 6 of 12 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 39 yards and a score. Darwin Barlow ran for 137 yards and a touchdown and Brown finished 118 yards and one touchdown.
Williams took home Offensive MVP honors with two touchdown grabs for 143 yards. Senior linebacker Corbin Foster was named Defensive MVP, leading the team with 15 tackles and one sack.
“It feels great to not only get this (award) but to win the game, Foster said. “I’ve put so much hard work in over the past few years and overcome injuries. To be in this place feels great.”
Thirteen different Tigers had at least one rushing attempt, led by Dylan Jantz (11 carries, 65 yards) and Braiden Clopton (five carries, 41 yards). Daylan Bower threw for 46 yards and a touchdown and ran for 15 yards on 16 attempts.
Gunter had the No. 2 scoring offense in 3A, Division II, averaging 50.4 points per game. Thursday was the first time the Tigers scored fewer than 20 points since October 25, 2013, in a game they won 19-11.
“We tried to overplay the run because they were hurting us there, which set up the play-action pass and that’s where it all got out of hand,” Gunter coach Jake Fieszel said. “I respect the heck out of what they did tonight. We had a great season and we’ll back.”
Newton opened the scoring with a 28-yard touchdown run by Barlow, which was set up by a 43-yard interception return by Brown. Gunter responded on the next drive, capped off by a three-yard run by Zach Lowe.
The first pass the Eagles completed was a touchdown. Josh Foster hit Noah Williams with an 11-yard throw on a play action fake in the second quarter. The two nearly linked up again just before the half, but the score was negated by a pass interference penalty.
Evan Gonzalez hit a 32-yard field goal for the Tigers just before the half to cut the lead to 14-10.
Gunter took advantage of a turnover early in the second half to take its first lead of the game. After calling running plays on 33 of their first 35 plays, the Tigers completed their first pass when Bower hit a wide open Clopton for a 23-yard score.
Newton went on its scoring run soon after and Foster ran it in form eight yards out for good measure with just under three minutes left in the game.
In 2015, Johnston was diagnosed with an extremely rare disease called graft-versus-host, which developed after a transplant and causes the white blood cells to attack the lungs and causes crippling pain. He missed one game this season because of the condition.
He wanted to deliver a state title to the team he took to the final game of the season in 2014.
Johnston can finally take the deep breath he’s waited so long for.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to win, but I’m still in shock,” he said.